Where shall I place the tip of my pen on this blank space. For the word I open with is the word that will set the route. Is the word from which the story unfolds, like the first colour on the canvas has a hand in all the colours that follow. Everything we do or make is a reaction to the opening move. And that makes us waver beforehand.
Once again, he needed a room and was unable to find one. Until he messaged that he had looked for it outside the city centre, in the woods. It was up the mountain to get there, down the mountain to go towards town. It was small, but with his running shoes laced up, he could run straight into the valley from the terrace. Sounded good, I thought. Until, when he came home to collect his things, he gave up the plot.
‘It’s a room in a care home,’ he said. He showed pictures of an apartment complex from the 1980s, with an empty car park, a logo on the facade in neon lights, rows of doors on a dark corridor, a restaurant and a counter at the entrance. In bewilderment, I did what I had promised myself never to do again: I pulled the emergency brake. ‘No way,’ I said.
I was not to be swayed by his counterarguments – then we’ll dissolve that contract, I said, then we’ll look for a new place together. More important is to know how you came to make this choice. I listened to his arguments. ‘You cannot make a choice from a negative motivation,’ I said, ‘there will be negative consequences of that.’ An opening move should be bright as a new spring.
Today, he picks up his new key. A key to a room in a student house in the city centre. He shares a bathroom with six and has to work his way through the dregs left behind by the previous occupants in the hall. Is it better than the sterile lobby of the retirement home? He just sends a picture of his furnished room. Yes, that’s an opening move. Who knows what will come out of it.
Header image: Helen Frankenthaler in her Studio. Photo: Ernest Haas.